If someone invites you to a “Persian Party,” don’t ask questions. Just go.

My brother recently got a job as an engineering assistant at the USDA. This is his first job where is he not a cook/slave in a nasty, greasy kitchen out of which pours the calories and fat that the chubby mouths of this country consume ten minutes before closing time. Besides that fact, this is really a great job for him to have right now as an engineering student. He is gaining valuable experience, and he works with a great team of intelligent and kind people. One of these intelligent and kind individuals invited him to a “Persian Party” this past Saturday. I think the brief texting conversation went something like this:

USDA guy: “Persian party tonight. Come as you are.”
Bro: “What’s a Persian party?”
USDA guy: “Persian dancing and Persian alcohol.”

So, with this information, my brother, my boyfriend, another friend, and myself expect (in our ignorant, puny brains) that the party will just be a bunch of white people participating in a semi-racist Persian themed drunk party. You know, with beer pong and that kind of junk. Well, in the end, I felt a little semi-racist myself for making this assumption. When we showed up to the party there was one white guy there, the one who invited my brother and who lived at the apartment of the party. Beyond that, there were about 20 Persian women and men in the living room, shaking it hard and getting sweaty as hell to some groovy-ass Persian tunes.

(Aside: In my four-and-a-half years of studying anthropology in college, I have never been to such a cultural event as this. And for the record “Persian alcohol” turned out to be rum, white rum, and vodka.)

Even though we were still in Kansas, and in our hometown, I felt like we had been transported to a different place altogether and were no longer a native to the space. For one of the few times of my life, I became the minority and was outside the barrier that is put up by language and cultural cues. It took me a little while (and a few drinks), but after being coaxed to dance several times I finally loosened up and became comfortable enough to make a fool of myself and attempt the dance style that reigned supreme. One classic move that several party-goers taught me was the “screw in the lightbulb” move. I guess you just shake your hips and simultaneously move your hand above your head like you are literally screwing in a light bulb, and alternate up and down. When I finally was doing it correctly I got smiles and encouragement from the team. I’m going to use that one at every party I go to now. Watch out!

At one point during the party there was a fire in the oven (I think it accidentally got turned on when someone was leaning on it), and the plastic cups and styrofoam plates that were being housed there were engulfed in flames. My brother opened the oven and pulled out a few materials with his bare hands and swatted at it to make the  fire go out. Some guys came over and worked together to get the fire completely out, and to open some windows to let some smoke out. While all of this was happening, a few dancers in the living room shouted things like “Fire!” or “Smoke!” but did not cease their dancing. They danced through the fire, the smoke, and the commotion, keeping smiles on their faces and sweat flowing on their brows!

A little further into the night, there was a cake, and knife to cut it was making its way from dancer to dancer. This seemed to be an interesting new turn of events, but myself and my cohort had been left out of this detail…IT WAS A WEDDING PARTY! The host, who works with my brother, got married about a week before and this was their celebration with their friends! I guess the tradition goes that the groom cuts the cake, but everyone tries to keep the knife from the groom so he can’t do this as it solidifies the union. That is until the groom gives the dancer money to get the knife from them. Once I got the knife, I had no idea what was going on and just danced around in the middle with it for way too long, and someone gave me a buck. I think because they took pity on me and wanted me to stop dancing. So then we ate cake and everything was so happy and lovely! And I got to go home with an extra $1, which I learned a little later may have been an insult. Heh.

This surprising party turned out to be one of the funnest I have been to in quite a long time, and it was most definitely a positive learning/breaking-out-of-my-bubble experience. Below is a video of an artist featured at the party who was obviously a crowd favorite — everyone squealed in delight whenever a song of his began. So, please play it and picture yours truly screwing in an imaginary lightbulb.

Vigen, Sultan of Pop

Hannah

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